PAS MP blames own party for rushing RUU355

By Ida Lim
Datuk Mahfuz Omar (pic) said Hadi should not have rushed to file the proposed amendments as a private member’s Bill and left the job to the federal government instead. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 ― PAS was too “rash” in tabling its proposal to the Shariah courts which led to the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s decision against taking over the Bill, Datuk Mahfuz Omar said today.

The Pokok Sena MP suggested that the move may have succeeded if his party leaders had followed an agreed roadmap set out in a joint technical committee between the PAS-led Kelantan government and the BN federal government previously.

“And the technical committee had agreed that RUU355 must be brought by the government, because this is a law under the federal government's jurisdiction,” Mahfuz told reporters in Parliament, referring to the private member’s Bill by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to amend Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act by its Malay short form.

“So to me, because they did not follow the roadmap, the whole matter became messy,” he added.

He said he did not think the BN’s component parties would have objected to the government taking over Hadi’s Bill if the roadmap had been followed, and cited previous amendments to Act 355 in 1984 and 1989 as examples.

“So to me, the mistake is we were too rash, politically rash in bringing the RUU355 without respecting the technical committee,” Mahfuz said.

He also said Hadi should not have rushed to file the proposed amendments as a private member’s Bill and left the job to the federal government instead.

“This private motion should not have been brought and the government should not have given way to this private motion, but instead the government should have carried it from the start -- maybe not in this meeting, but taking time, after consultation with the Council of Rulers and so on,” he said.

“To me, if all quarters whether the Kelantan government and federal government or PAS itself followed the roadmap, I don't think people will reject,” he added.

Mahfuz said he is now sceptical that Hadi’s Bill will have its turn in being debated in Parliament after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement last night.

Najib had said that BN had decided against taking over Hadi's Bill and that whether the latter would be tabled or voted on would be subject to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker.

Mahfuz today noted that the Dewan Rakyat Speaker would need a minister's nod before allowing private motions or Private Member's Bill to jump the queue over government Bills or government motions.

He believed the federal government would not have one of its ministers fast-track Hadi's Bill, pointing out that it may otherwise kickstart a process where Putrajaya has to table its own version of RUU355.

“If the minister gives way, it will certainly contradict with BN's consensus as announced by the prime minister.

“Because the minister giving way means the government will take over after that, if the motion is accepted and the majority of votes support this private motion. When this private motion is passed, it means the government must take over to bring this Bill for scrutiny after it is reviewed by the Attorney-General's Chambers,” he said.

The RUU355 as proposed by Hadi seeks to raise the Shariah courts' sentencing limits to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes, up from its current limits of three years' jail, RM5,000 fine and six strokes.